MERIDIAN, Idaho — One of Idaho’s most popular corn mazes is again attracting national attention.
USA Today named The Farmstead Corn Maze & Pumpkin Festival one of the top 10 fall corn mazes for family fun in North America.
The maze, which attracts more than 20,000 people from around the state’s largest urban area, has received national recognition several times in the past.
Two years ago, it featured likenesses of presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and stories and photos of the maze appeared in Time Magazine, New Yorker Magazine and other major media.
Leah Clark, who manages the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s Idaho Preferred Program, wasn’t surprised to hear the festival attracted national attention again.
“It’s always creative and lots of fun,” she said. “He is on the cutting edge.”
Farmstead owner Jim Lowe said it’s fun to receive national attention but his real goal is to educate urban folks about agriculture by entertaining them.
“People want to have fun (and) we have to have something fun to continue to attract visitors and keep the doors open,” he said. “Education is much more effective if it is woven into fun.”
The entire 50-acre festival is intertwined with agriculture and includes farm animals, hay and pony rides, pig races, cow and grain trains and farm yard games.
“We want them to get some of the sites, sounds and feel of a farm,” Lowe said.
People can navigate the maze quicker by answering questions related to agriculture.
“He really is trying to add an agricultural education component to that maze,” Clark said. “He’s trying to increase people’s awareness of agriculture and ... its place in our economy and environment.”
During on-farm school field trips, Lowe or another farmer will speak with the class about agriculture and why it’s important for them and the state.
“I think it’s important for everybody to have a base knowledge about agriculture,” he said.
When school budgets tightened and funding for school trips decreased, The Farmstead introduced a program that allows students to earn a free pass to the festival by tracking the food they eat for a week and noting which products were produced on an Idaho farm.
“It draws their attention to things they are eating that are produced right here,” Lowe said. “Hopefully, they will make the connection that the corn they are playing in today will become the milk on their table later in the year..
This year’s maze, which celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz, includes a Famous Idaho Potato Sack Slide that is sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission.
IPC President and CEO Frank Muir said the commission jumped at the chance to sponsor the slide, which is located off the busiest intersection in the state..
“This is like having a billboard out there,” he said. “We want to remind folks how important potatoes are for the state of Idaho.”